Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Why Brits wish they could buy gas in Chicago

U.S. gas prices are soaring. The average for low grade unleaded is now $4.00/gallon, and the highest - $4.50/gallon - is right next door in Chicago (out here in the burbs, it's more like $4.39).

Let us briefly interrupt our hyperventilating to consider how our gas prices compare with, say, petrol prices in the UK.

To do this, we'll have to convert liters into US gallons, which, by the way, are different from UK gallons (1 liter = .2642 U.S. gallons) and US gallons into liters (1 US gallon = 3.7854 liters). We'll also have to convert British pounds sterling into US dollars (£1 = $1.6476 today) and US dollars into British pounds sterling ($1 = £0.6069). And then we do some math.

The result: If the UK had petrol for $4.00/gallon, they would be paying £0.64/liter. However, the UK average price for low grade unleaded on May 10 was more than twice that much: £1.37/liter.

Or, looked at another way, if we in the US had to pay UK prices for gas, we'd be paying $8.54 per gallon.

UK prices aren't exceptionally high, by the way: all over Europe, prices are similar.

How do Europeans cope? They drive smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. They invest in excellent public transit. They live closer to work. Many of them ride bikes or walk. (The extra exercise not only saves gas; it may also be one reason why Europeans tend to be healthier than Americans.) And, of course, they tighten their belts - their gas prices have been soaring too.

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